Au pairs from France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Australia met at the Aquatic Center for continuing safety education.
Scientists from around the world are not the only international residents in northern New Mexico.
There is also a vibrant group of young people from around the world who have come here to work, study and live with a U.S. family for a year – these young people are au pairs.
As part of their year-long program, they participate in mandatory safety training sessions, including a summer water-safety and drowning-prevention unit.
This summer, all of the au pairs from Santa Fe and Los Alamos met at the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center on Saturday, June 30 to complete this training.
An au pair is a live-in nanny spending a year of cultural exchange, childcare work and education in the U.S.
Thousands of au pairs are placed in U.S. homes annually by Cultural Care Au Pair, the largest au pair agency in the United States.
Arriving on a J-1 visa, au pairs spend up to two years with one or two U.S. families, providing up to 45 hours of flexibly scheduled childcare per week and taking classes at local institutions.
But unlike a traditional nanny, the heart of the au pair program, which is closely overseen by the Department of State, is cultural exchange.
While au pairs work hard to provide great childcare, families who choose to host au pairs welcome them into their homes for up to two years as a new family member, with all parties gaining valuable cultural and language enrichment.
Au pair agencies and the Department of State are constantly reviewing guidelines to make the au pair and J-1 programs as good as they can possibly be, and one change in recent years has been the formalization of required continuing education units.
While Local Childcare Coordinators, who hold monthly social or cultural meetings for au pairs in their group, used to be required to provide two units of their choosing annually to au pairs, the requirement is now that brief, formal curricula for fire safety (autumn), poisoning prevention (spring) and drowning prevention (summer) be delivered through the course of the au pair year.
Malin Doehle, the au pair for the Koller family in Los Alamos, says of the fire safety unit she took in Santa Fe in October 2011, “I thought it was really fun to get to go into the training trailer, and to practice with extinguishers. It was also an extra surprise that an EMT took us on his truck and showed us the equipment. Soon I am returning to Germany after a wonderful year so that I can train to be a paramedic, so I find all of these little classes interesting.”
Hannah Levbarg, Local Childcare Coordinator for Santa Fe and Los Alamos, adds, “Au pairs already have significant childcare experience and many have formal training in first aid and other related critical skills. They also receive safety training during the week they spend in New York City at Cultural Care’s au pair training school before they arrive at their families. However, the company feels it’s best practice to provide simple, structured ongoing supplemental training throughout the program year. Though basic, these are great refresher courses and I notice au pairs getting good reminders about key safety issues and practices every session – I also learn or remember useful things each time.”
Families who would like to know more about the au pair program should contact Hannah Levbarg, Local Childcare Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org / 505-424-3785 (office) / 505-780-0338 (mobile). Cultural Care Au Pair is the leading provider of intercultural childcare and educational exchange since 1989. A division of EF Education and a US Department of State regulated program, Cultural Care Au Pair is headquartered in Cambridge, MA with an extensive network of international recruitment, screening, and orientation offices worldwide.